American woodwock. Photo by Bob Stymeist
by Martha Steele
Seasons in Orleans County are not just about changing weather, leaves, or recreational pursuits. They also bring wide swings in bird populations, from the near absence of sound or flight during a mid-winter walk in the woods to the deafening chorus of an early spring morning.
My husband, Bob Stymeist, and I have been regularly visiting my mother in Westmore and chronicling the birds we see and hear all year-round. In 2013, over 56 days, we tallied a total of 152 bird species in Orleans County for the year, our personal record. In all, birders recorded 179 species in Orleans County in 2013, according to Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s eBird. Our total number since we started birding the county about a decade ago is 178 species.
Birders love statistics and to keep lists. A yard list. A town list. A county list. A year list. A trip list. A life list. The term “lifer” becomes a unique word for birders, not only indicating a new species that the birder has never seen, but expanding to anything new to the individual, be it a road, a restaurant, or anything at all.
For us, Orleans County holds special affection. It is where we welcome back our avian friends every spring. “Our” wood thrush returns every year to a particular spot on our property. A northern waterthrush greets us with song every spring morning along the road to Willoughby. A chestnut-sided warbler sets up territory near our mailbox. We are truly astonished and moved by the ability of birds to travel thousands of miles to and from their wintering or breeding grounds, only to settle in the same place as the year before. Welcome back indeed.
These snow buntings were photographed on Schoolhouse Road in Brownington. Wheeler Mountain is in the background. Photo by Bob Stymeist